Abstract We wished to investigate whether an e-learning approach which uses constructivist principles can be successfully applied to train employees in a highly specialised skill thought to require expert individuals and extensive prolonged training. The approach involved the development of an e-learning package which included simulations and interactivity, then experimental testing in a case study workplace environment with the collection of both quantitative and qualitative data to assess the effectiveness of the package. Our study shows that this e-learning strategy improved the skills of the inexperienced operator significantly. We therefore propose that such programmes could be used as a work based training aid and used as a model system for the training of employees in complex skilled tasks in the workplace. This research demonstrates that the e-learning can be applied outside the traditional learning environment to train unskilled employees to undertake complex practical tasks which traditionally would involve prohibitively expensive instruction. This work also illustrates that simulations and interactivity are powerful tools in the design of successful e-learning packages in preparing learners for real world practical situations. Finally this study shows that workplace learners can be better served by e-learning environments rather than conventional training as they allow asynchronous learning and private study which are valued by employees who have other demands on their time and are more comfortable receiving tuition privately Relevance to industry E-learning using constructivist principles, and incorporating simulations and interactivity can be used successfully in the training of highly specialised and skilled tasks required in the modern workplace.